Managing someone else’s estate is a time-consuming and complicated task. Many times, it is also a thankless job. Some testators earmark special compensation for the executor of their estate or the trustee managing their trust. Others do not.
Regardless of whether or not an executor receives compensation for the tasks, he or she has a fiduciary duty to the deceased and the beneficiaries of the will or trust.
As an heir to an estate, you have a vested interest in how the executor or trustee performs the job. After all, the money in the trust or the assets from the estate will partially become yours after settling the estate. If you have reason to believe the executor may be stealing or otherwise failing in this important position, you may need to bring a challenge in court .
There are several kinds of theft common in estates
Many people with sizeable estates fail to outline and detail every valuable possession in the estate. They may simply generalize in how they split up assets. For example, one testator could value her jewelry collection at $100,000 and leave all of it to her daughter. However, the executor could easily pocket certain items without anyone discovering it right away. Stealing items of value from an estate is one way an executor can violate his or her fiduciary duty.
It’s also possible for an executor to perform transactions that don’t really benefit the estate. Selling assets or even the home of the deceased are common tasks. However, if the executor knows a real estate agent or a buyer, he or she could sell the home from much under market value to benefit that person (or perhaps to receive a lump-sum fee for the undervalued sale). In this situation, the executor is not acting in the best interests of the estate and the heirs.
Sometimes, executors just can’t perform the duties of the job
Not everyone who does a poor job as executor or trustee is a thief. Some people simply lack the ability to perform the duties of the job. They may live in another city, state or country. The executor could still have a full-time job and children that preclude him or her from devoting adequate time to resolving estate issues. Delays can cost the estate thousands, especially if bills don’t get paid on time.
If you have any reason to believe that the executor or trustee named by a deceased loved one is incapable of doing the necessary job, you may need to challenge the estate or executor in court. Doing so will protect your inheritance and ensure that someone capable of doing all the work ends up named as the new executor by the courts.